Bo Wang: Laws of the Game

Eduardo Galeano, the Ecuadorian writer and author of Open Veins of Latin America, once wrote, “The history of soccer is a sad voyage from beauty to duty. When the sport became an industry, the beauty that blossoms from the joy of play got torn out by its very roots.”1Eduardo Galeano, Soccer in Sun and Shadow, trans. Mark Fried (London: Verso, 1998), 2.​ In contrast to commercialized international competitions, which attempt to insulate themselves from politics in order to safeguard their businesses, the World Football Cup of the Confederation of Independent Football Associations (CONIFA) offers another extreme. The commercial viability of the Cup is hard to ensure; the sponsors, often wary of taking a political position, are scarce; and the competitiveness of the teams is uneven, countering CONIFA’s vision of transcending the realities of international politics.

Participants in the CONIFA World Football Cup often include players from unrecognized states or those who happen to be stateless persons, refugees, ethnic minorities, and other groups not registered with FIFA. In 2016, the World Football Cup was hosted by Abkhazia on the eastern coast of the Black Sea, which few nations recognize as a sovereign state. After the Abkhazian team reached the finals and beat the Punjabi team in penalty kicks, the president announced a national holiday the next day.2Joel Rookwood, “The Politics of ConIFA: Organising and Managing International Football Events for Unrecognised Countries,” Managing Sport and Leisure 25, no. 1–2 (March 3, 2020): 6–20. link.​ CONIFA has a unique hosting system; because the organizing member may not have its own territory, the matches are sometimes held in a third country. For example, the World Football Cup 2018 was hosted by the Barawa team comprised of Somali immigrants in the United Kingdom, but the matches were all held in London.

Although Law 4 on the International Football Association Board’s website states that players’ equipment cannot display political slogans, statements, or images,3“Laws of the Game,” The International Football Association Board,​ soccer is rife with militaristic connotations in terms of the ceremony, strategy, and emotion on display in the game. CONIFA also explicitly states that matches have no political orientation. However, given that the World Football Cup is played by groups pursuing formal independence or international recognition, the game’s symbolic meaning is self-evident.

The laws of the game for the Heichi Olympic Reveries are as follows: Organizers must falsely claim that the games have no political orientation and work to ensure that all contributors propose visions that transcend the realities of international politics.

Translated from the Chinese by Bridget Noetzel.

Bo Wang is an artist, filmmaker and researcher based between the Netherlands and China. As an artist, his works have been exhibited internationally, including venues such as Guggenheim Museum and Museum of Modern Art in New York, Garage Museum in Moscow, Rotterdam Film Festival in the Netherlands, Visions du Réel in Switzerland, Image Forum Festival in Tokyo, Ural Industrial Biennial of Contemporary Art in Yekaterinburg, DMZ Docs in South Korea, Times Museum in Guangzhou, BOZAR in Brussels, among others. He received a fellowship from the Robert Flaherty Film Seminar in 2013, and was an artist-in-residency at ACC-Rijksakademie 2017-2018 as well as NTU CCA in 2016.

Bridget Noetzel is a translator, editor, and art consultant based in Hong Kong. She received a BA in both Chinese Language and the History of Art from Yale University. Since 2009, she has worked with galleries and artists in Beijing and Hong Kong, and she has translated and edited for major publications, institutions, and auction houses. In 2017, she co-founded the Asia Photography Project. She was the translator for Yi Ying’s history of modern Chinese art, entitled Art and Artists in China 1949-Present (Cambridge University Press, 2018).


平行奥运 Olympic Reveries

In tandem with the Tokyo Olympics, Heichi Magazine is hosting a parallel assembly of artist essays. Olympic Reveries emphasizes the cultural spaces opened up by sports and the illusion of spatiotemporal unity created by live broadcasts. We invited artists to extend the ideas of athleticism and national culture into their practices and speculate on real or imagined games that present values different from those of mainstream sporting events.

Kárpátalja played North Cyprus in the 2018 CONIFA World Football Cup final


Published: 2021.07.26